James McCune Smith

Quick Look At Smith

James McCune Smith was known for his advocacy for Black Americans during the antebellum time period in America. He was a scientist, physician, spokesman, and essayist.

Early Life

James McCune Smith was born April 13, 1813, in New York City to an enslaved mother. Later, his mother bought her freedom. Smith got his education at the African Free School in New York, a school founded by white abolitionists. This school for Black boys helped students understand that despite what society had told them, they were equal in ability to White students. After graduating from the African Free School, many colleges refused to accept Smith due to racial discrimination. He raised money to attend the University of Glasgow, a college in Scotland. Here, Smith completed his bachelor's and master's degree before making history by becoming the first African American to earn a degree in medicine. Smith completed his internship in Paris, France, and later returned to New York.


In New York, Smith opened up his own medical office that attracted clients of all ethnicities. He also became a huge anti-slavery and anti-racism advocate. He wrote essays about racism, medicine, science, and education and his writing brought awareness to America. He established educational societies and anti-slavery organizations to help with the antebellum, a time in which Americans wanted to improve the conditions of their country from education to rights, to prison conditions. Smith also helped to form the National Council of Colored People. In 1863, Smith accepted a position at Wilberforce College as a professor of anthropology. He died of heart disease two years later on November 17th.

James McCune Smith played a major role in helping to get rights for African Americans, and by becoming the first Black American to get their medical degree, Smith was and is an inspiration for many people and a reminder that you can do anything that you put your mind to.